As a private citizen, I support having a constitutional convention and take issue with those who claim that a Rhode Island Constitutional Convention should be avoided for many reasons, including that wealthy outside special interests would control the convention and that it would be “but a fantasy of a magic bullet.”
I have as one example from the last constitutional convention held in 1986 showing individuals can make a difference. Though I was not personally a member of the 1986 Constitutional Convention, I was an assistant attorney general at that time with a concern that with many serious criminal drug prosecutions defendants made bail immediately no matter the seriousness of their criminal activity.
These individuals, charged with crimes that could bring a life sentence under the law, were back selling drugs and often frightening neighborhood families the same day as their arraignment. It was “back on the street same day just like a revolving door” for drug dealers.
My concerns motivated me to draft language that would amend Section 9 (Right to Bail) of the Rhode Island Constitution allowing judges the discretion to hold the most serious drug dealers without bail when the offence and facts presented at a bail hearing called for such.
I attended a number of early sessions of the 1986 Constitutional Convention offering the idea and a draft of a proposed amendment to the R.I. Constitution to anyone who would listen.
With the help and support of Henry Brown of Warwick, Bruce Sundlun of Providence, both elected delegates to the 1986 convention and others the proposed amendment finally passed and was subsequently approved by Rhode Island voters along with other reform amendments.
Since passage of this amendment in 1986, I have become aware that judges are now able, with a solid factual basis, to hold serious drug dealers without bail, which has been an important tool for law enforcement and a relief for neighborhoods affected by illegal drug sales.
The thought is that individual citizens do have a voice and can make a difference. Constitutional conventions provide a forum and means for citizens to be heard and initiate reform. Non-partisan citizens have the opportunity to propose and support reform and change. This is a process rare in the world today and one of the many reasons the 13 Colonies separated from England.
So “bravo” to those individual men and women who are willing to stand up and support holding a constitutional convention as well as the many groups like RI Taxpayers, Freedom & Prosperity and Reforming Rhode Island who support Proposition 3 on the ballot on November 4 calling for a constitutional convention that could bring real reform for Rhode Island.
“It’s not a fantasy…Have no Fear…Reform is near!”
John E. Migliaccio is a former R.I. Assistant Attorney General and not affiliated with any advocacy group, party or candidate.